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'The Hunger Games'' Jacqueline Emerson: Girl On Fire

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Jackie Emerson isn't your typical teenage fangirl. Sure, she's been obsessed with The Hunger Games since long before she had to read the book for her high school English class, and when director Gary Ross interviewed her for his proposal to direct The Hunger Games, she thought to herself, "What if?" The difference between Jackie and the hundreds of thousands of other fans, however, is that she was actually selected to participate in The Hunger Games. But don't worry -- this wasn't a fight to the death.

The 17-year-old actress will be playing Foxface in The Hunger Games movie, coming out on coming March 23. It's based on the trilogy by Suzanne Collins that quietly became a cultural touchstone of Twilight proportions after its release in 2008. The Lionsgate theatrical release of the film version of the first novel is one of the most anticipated movies of 2012, and Jackie's character, Foxface, is a "tribute": a young person chosen to fight in the Hunger Games. Foxface competes against Katniss in the games and is one of the few who stands a real chance at winning.

Huffington Post High School caught up with Jackie to talk about her Hunger Games experience, her budding music career, and what it's like to do all this and still be a totally normal high school senior.

Has there been a lot of buzz at your school since you’ve come back from filming the movie?
Everyone has just been really supportive. My friends have just been fabulous because they’re just as excited as I am! I’m such a huge fan... It’s just a crazy idea that I could even be part of this.

Are people treating you differently in classes? Do you think things will get crazier when March rolls around?
I don’t know, I guess we’ll see. Ask me that question in a couple of months and I’ll let you know!

Question from one of our Twitter followers, @Wave_Disrtict4: What is Foxface’s real name?
Oh, I can’t tell! It’s something I came up with when I was doing character work.

That’s so fun! You got to make up the name?
Yeah! I think that’s the coolest part about being able to play her: There’s not a lot of information about her in the book. I really got to have a field day. [Ed Note: The name is not actually mentioned in the movie: It was part of the character portfolio that Jackie put together in preparation for the film.]

Do you think it made your job easier, not knowing any back story about her?
I think it was just different. It was really fun because I got to use my imagination and really make her come alive. Hopefully [that comes across] in the movie. So obviously, she has to have a name! She’s not Foxface in her hometown.

Did you run it by Suzanne [Collins, the author of The Hunger Games]?
No... I hope she doesn’t hate me! I’ve just been trying to keep it to myself for now, and then maybe after the movie comes out, I’ll tell people. But I feel like people will be so opinionated about it because it may or may not be what everyone imagined. But it’s what it was for me, you know? I’m still debating whether or not I will disclose that information when the premiere is over. You’ll be the first to know!

You mentioned in another interview that you think Foxface is the smartest tribute in the arena. I’d love to hear a little bit more about why you think that.
Well, she gets through the games without killing anybody!

That’s a good point.
The only other character who you really know doesn’t kill anyone, besides all the people that die in the blood bath, is Rue. Foxface figures out all these little tiny details about how everyone else is playing, like with the mine hopping scene… Oh God, these are spoilers! Is it okay that I’m saying this?

This stuff happens in the book! You’re good.
Well, [Foxface] figures out where the mines are surrounding the career camp. Like, who does that? She had to be very detail-oriented and very analytical to figure that out. She [had to have been] spying on them and have them not notice her.

You’ve mentioned that [Jennifer Lawrence] is just like Katniss in real life -- what about her do you think is so Katniss-like?
One of the things I admire about Katniss so much is that she’s the rare, strong female character leading a book. You don’t get a lot of those. And Jen is such a strong female person! [laughs] Okay, that came out weirdly, but she’s very self-possessed, she’s so talented, and really funny. She had this quote in a magazine where she talks about Oscar season and how she felt like she was being pinched and prodded and was trying on all these different clothes and stuff, and that’s exactly how Katniss feels in all of the Capitol scenes, you know? [Jen] is so down-to-earth and Katniss is very down-to-earth, as well. I don't know think anyone could have played it better.

You mention Jen being poked and prodded when she’s going to events, but you’re also beginning to go to red carpet events yourself. How you feel about it? Are they fun?
Right now it's really fun but I guess that’s because I haven't been doing it for too long! I don't know what I’m going to say in a year. But I think it's really cool to be able to meet a lot of really interesting people and see charity work through doing these different events. Like when I went to the HALO Awards a couple weeks ago, that was so cool.

One of our teen bloggers was honored at the HALO awards for her non-profit work! What a wonderful event.
I was astounded by how inspirational those kids were. It made me feel like ‘Oh God, I need to do something more!’... I feel like going to these types of events give me insight into this world that I really never knew existed.

Do you have any mentors -- maybe from the movie or in your day-to-day life -- that are helping you figure things out in the industry?
Well, my parents. They’re so supportive of me and they’re always there for me. I think family is so important. Jen [Lawrence] has actually been really fabulous. She’s given me a lot of great advice. And I just think the whole cast has just been really supportive of each other. We’re so close. If somebody’s nervous about something we can always just kind of talk it out or come out to support them. I think that’s great.

Is there any particular piece of advice Jen’s given you that really stood out?
Well, this is just kind of something I picked up from her -- and I know this is the cheesiest, most clichéd advice out there -- but be yourself. Everyone’s been telling me that all my life but it never really hit me until the summer [when we were filming The Hunger Games]. It’s harder than you think it would be but I think it’s so important. Once you get to that point when you can just be yourself and relax, I just think that you’re so much happier in general.

You mentioned earlier that you think that Hunger Games is so great because of these strong female characters, and I also happen to know that you are a Twilight fan. What do you think of all the comparisons happening between the two franchises? Do you think Twilight and Hunger Games are similar?
I think they’re similar in the sense that they both are big a series, and they both have huge fanbases, but other than that, they’re completely different. Twilight is a love story and The Hunger Games isn’t. The Hunger Games is a story of a girl fighting for her family and fighting for her life. The love is almost like a side thing. She’s not ruled by romance in any definition of the word.

So, what if Katniss and Bella switched roles? Katniss got thrown into Twilight and Bella had to step into The Games for Katniss.
Oh my God!

Do you think they’d survive?
Okay, Bella would die immediately, I’m sad to say. Like, she’d step off the Cornucopia and someone would shoot her. No offense to Bella. Katniss I don’t think would take Edward at all. I think that she would just be like: "Forks sucks, there’s nothing going on here. I’m gonna go back and live with my family."

There’d be some good hunting in Forks though, right?
Yeah, that’s true! [Katniss] would move to the forest or something and just live there. She wouldn’t even care about the vampires. That would be a whole other side story!

That’s so funny. She’d make a good vampire hunter though!
Oh my God, she would. She’s just like Buffy The Vampire Slayer!

She is! I totally agree!
Except instead of hunting vampires, she hunts animals and squirrels and stuff. Same difference!

If you were in The Hunger Games, what would your personal strategy be?
That’s one of the cool ways I related to Foxface: I can’t even kill a spider! If I see a spider in my house, I put it in a cup, and then I take it outside. I save it. What is wrong with me? Just kidding. I’m a pescatarian -- I don’t even eat meat! So I would probably go the Facefox approach and try to last through it by being smart. You know, it’s too bad about the Nightshade. Honestly, I think she could have won!


Watch Jackie Emerson's music video for her song "Peter Pan" (which she wrote herself!) here: